Some major European fashion brands are set to skip Dhaka Apparel Summit scheduled for February 25, citing repression of unions in Bangladesh.
‘Leading garment brands, including H&M, Inditex, C&A and Tchibo, have said that they will not be attending the industry’s Apparel Summit in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on February 25, citing the current climate of repression against unions as incompatible with activities to promote the industry,’ said a released jointly issues by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union from Geneva on Thursday.
It said, ‘The absence of global brands at the Apparel Summit, an international event which will be inaugurated by Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, sends a clear message to the Bangladesh garment industry that so long as workers and trade unionists are being arrested and intimidated for speaking up for the rights of garment workers, there will be no “business as usual”.’
IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, two global platforms of labour rights groups, are signatories to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh formed following the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 that killed more than 1,100 apparel workers.
Along with two global trade unions, the accord was been signed by over 200 apparel brands, retailers and importers from over 20 countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.
Recently, the global labour rights groups urged all its affiliated trade unions across the world to participate in the campaign sending protest letter to Bangladeshi embassies or directly to the Bangladesh government demanding release of jailed trade union leaders.
Responding to the call, trade unionists, workers and NGOs staged protests outside Bangladesh embassies and consulates in over 16 cities, including Berlin, Geneva, London, Brussels, the Hague, Washington DC, New York, Ottawa, Kathmandu, and Seoul, the release said.
It said that the protesters called for wrongly jailed union leaders and workers to be freed immediately and the crackdown against unions to stop.
The global labour rights groups said that in past few weeks at least 34 union leaders and garment workers were arrested and detained over false allegations connected to demonstrations over low wages.
As of today, many remain imprisoned and none of the charges have been dropped, the release said.
This crackdown is about denying workers in the Bangladeshi garment industry the right to organise unions and collectively bargain for decent wages, said UNI Global Union deputy general secretary Christy Hoffman.
‘We call on the Bangladesh government and the BGMEA [Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association] to put a halt to this harassment and respect the workers who create wealth for their country while receiving a pittance,’ he said.
IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft said that there was no sustainable future for the readymade garment industry in Bangladesh without respect for labour rights.
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